Summary: In which a house is more than a house, and Percy comes home. Sort of.
Purgatory in Seven Parts
Shrieks of distant laughter spiked through the windows while Percy wandered through the empty Burrow. He had left the party on the pretense of having to use the loo, but in reality he simply needed to get away. He had felt people staring at his back, and no one looked him straight in the eyes , and he knew what they thought of him. Traitor. Prat. Coward. Even though he had come back and fought in the Final Battle, these insults were still branded to him. Everyone could pretend that they accepted him back and loved him in spite of his faults, but he knew the truth.
He shook his head to clear away the depressing thoughts, and as he did he tripped over the last step on the stairway leading to the second floor. The world blurred, and he instinctively threw his hands out to catch himself. His left hand hit a door and scraped down to the floor, and his right hand slammed in the floorboards as his knees buckled and he was left crouching on the ground, his hands smarting.
Percy swore, cursing his own clumsiness, and then scrambled back up. Good thing the twins hadn't seen him fall—it would have been one more thing for them to mock him for. Suddenly, Percy stopped. The twins. No, not the twins anymore; there was only George now. He cursed again, silently, then gently shook his left hand as if it would make the pain go away. Glancing to his left, he realized that the door directly to his left was open. He'd pushed it open while falling, most likely, and he moved forward to close it.
It was the door to his parents' room. The room itself was small, with a slightly crooked window that was probably originally meant to be a rectangle but had somehow turned into a rhombus. The floor was freshly swept, and Percy remembered that his family had fled the Burrow during the last months of the war. No doubt dust had accumulated in their absence, and his mum had always been a bit of cleaning nut. The floorboards and the furniture were all worn and scratched; Mum would have described it as "well-loved". Percy paused as he stepped into the room, his hand resting on the door-handle, and he stared. Something about this room was comforting; it reminded him of hot cocoa on cold winter nights, of Da making funny voices while reading old fairy tales, of warm arms holding him and small voices giggling, of a time when the dynamics of the Weasley household had not been defined by political allegiances.
A lump had formed in Percy's throat, and he hastily swallowed. He was blinking rapidly, and suddenly he felt an overwhelming urge to go through the rooms of the Burrow, to make sure those parts of the rickety old house were present even when their owners were not.
The bedroom next to his parents' was Ginny's. The door creaked when Percy opened it, and he peered cautiously inside. He hadn't been in Ginny's room in ages. He had a brief memory of pink lacy curtains and a bright pink bedspread and pale pink rugs; when Ginny had been born, Mum and Da had been so excited to have a daughter that they basically drenched the baby's room in pink. Over the years, Ginny had gradually replaced the nauseatingly pink furnishings and accessories with more variously-colored things, and now the bedspread was yellow, the curtains white, and the rug striped green and blue. A fuzzy pink pygmy puff was sleeping on her pillow, trembling occasionally as it dreamt, and a vertical bar of light streamed into the room from the partially open curtains. Schoolbooks were piled haphazardly on a wooden shelf, and her trunk was nestled in the corner nearest the door. The closet door was partially open, revealing the long sleeve of a white cardigan, and makeup littered the top of the dresser. Percy frowned. Did his sister actually wear so much makeup? Come to think of it, what type of clothing did she wear while at school? He'd heard from George that Ginny had gone through quite the parade of boyfriends before choosing Harry Potter, but he had hoped that George was exaggerating. A rush of brotherly protectiveness flooded through him, and he quickly backed out of the room and shut the door. Better to not get overanxious about it; Ginny wouldn't appreciate his interference anyway.
Bill's room was on the third floor. The room, like its owner, was tidy in a casual way. Nothing too fussy, with a hint of exoticism present in the prints of Egyptian paintings tacked to the walls and in the African masks displayed on the bookshelf, which was laden with adventure books and paperback thrillers. The bed was made but rumpled, and on the nightstand was the newspaper clipping of the Weasleys vacation to Egypt. Percy remembered that trip well. For the most part it had been fun; the food had been strange but delicious, the culture had been fascinating, and he had been secure in the knowledge that he would be Head Boy during his final year at Hogwarts. The only downsides had been that Fred and George had been unable to restrain from pranking anyone for more than a day, and that Percy had usually been target of their pranks. Thus the trip to Egypt had also given him a particularly unpleasant memory of a tomb door thundering shut, locking him a pitch-dark room that smelt of musty death.
Speaking of Fred and George, their room was across from Bill's so that Bill could (according to Mum) "keep an eye on them". This apparently hadn't been very effective, since the twins had always managed to get into trouble anyway. Percy hesitated outside the room, unsure if he wanted to go in. Fred had lived here, and now going into the room felt like a violation of some sort. But…Fred had died laughing. He had been killed while laughing at Percy's joke. Percy supposed that constituted forgiveness but he wasn't altogether sure. He leaned his forehead to the wooden door and closed his eyes. He didn't need to go inside the room to know it would be messy enough that the floor would hardly be visible, and that the wall would be plastered with Quidditch posters that featured famous Beaters forever stuck in the same game. Percy sighed; he wasn't ready yet. He couldn't look at Fred's things, which had been left untouched since the battle. The dead twin's things were mingled with those of the living twin, and Percy could only imagine what George was going through. George, he realized, hadn't been in his room at all since the battle, but had been sleeping on the sofa downstairs.
Percy dragged himself from the door and shuffled to the stairs. Charlie's, Percy's, and Ron's rooms were crammed away on the fourth, fifth, and sixth floors, with the attic on the seventh floor and right above Ron's room. The stairs groaned and wobbled as he ascended them, reminding him that the house was being held together by magic, possibly assisted by sheer willpower. Charlie had liked the fourth floor because it gave him a good view of the orchard in which he and the twins, often accompanied by Ron and Ginny, would constantly practice Quidditch. Charlie's and Ron's walls were all covered with posters; Charlie's posters were of various Quidditch teams (including several rather racy ones of Holyhead Harpie players that were on the insides of his closet doors where Mum couldn't see them) and of dragons that were breathing fire and generally looking menacing. Ron's posters, however, favored the Chudley Canons and the Irish National Quidditch Team. The two rooms were similar in other respects as well, since Charlie and Ron were very much alike. Ron was also fairly similar to the twins, which had often made Percy feel even more left out, given that he was younger than Charlie and the twins but older than Ron, all of whom were so much alike that Percy had never been able to fit in with them. Both rooms were somewhat messy, the closets piled with random objects—both Ron and Charlie's ideas of cleaning involved shoving things into the closet or under the bed until the rest of the room looked tolerable. Charlie's bed was covered in dark green coverlet reminiscent of the color of the Common Welsh Green dragon, while the orange of Ron's blanket was eye-burningly fierce.
Percy ran his hand over a broken broom that was leaning against the wall behind the door to Charlie's bedroom; Percy had been very young when Charlie had broken the broom. He had been in the garden at the time, helping Mum chase away gnomes, while Charlie, Bill, Fred, and George had been flying around over the orchard. Neither George nor Fred were very high off the ground, having been expressly forbidden by Mum to fly more than ten feet off the ground, but Charlie and Bill were zigzagging and loop-de-looping high in the sky. Suddenly Fred and George were yelling and pointing, and Percy and his mum had run to the orchard just in time to see Charlie crash into a tree. Charlie had broken his wrist and his elbow, and his broom had broken into three pieces. Percy wasn't sure why Charlie had kept the broom pieces, but he suspected it was purely for purely sentimental reasons.
Finally there was Percy's room. Being on the fifth floor, it was just below Ron's room, a fact that had often been painfully clear to Percy in his youth, since Ron tended to stomp when he walked. His bedspread was clean white, his floor bare, his old clothes neatly hung up in the closet. His papers and books were stacked on the shelf, and his walls were bereft of posters or pictures. The state of the room seemed to indicate that whoever lived in it had little, if any, personality, or perhaps had only been planning on staying for a short time. After going through his sibling's room Percy noticed something about his own room. Compared to the bright colors and sometimes chaotic mess of the other rooms in the house, Percy's room looked downright lifeless. Percy was baffled. He had remembered his room as a place of comfort, an escape from the hectic life that was a byproduct of living in a large family. Now, however, his room seemed cold and impersonal, more like a prison than a sanctuary.
Percy wondered if that was how his family saw him: aloof and uncaring. Maybe they thought his room represented him, in the same way their bedrooms reflected their own interests and traits. Another unsettling thought occurred to Percy: why had he never bothered to make his room his own? Why had he never felt the need to tack up posters or keep bits of old junk to which he was emotionally attached? Percy pondered this as he sat on his bed, which creaked softly under the weight of him. He stared around at the blank brown walls and the uncluttered floor, then closed his eyes and lay on the bed. Maybe if he could remember what had made this room seem so comforting to him…? He concentrated on memories of slipping into this room while in other parts of the house his family members yelled and ran around and cleaned and cooked and joked, on how this place had always seemed like a haven when Gred and Forge were causing small explosions in their room and Ron was clunking about upstairs and the ghoul in the attic was howling. It had been peaceful then…
"Percy?" Someone was shaking him. He was slowly pulled from the dark abyss of his dream, and he blinked confusedly as Ginny shook him again.
The blur that was Ginny's face said "Are you okay?", and Percy realized that his glasses had slipped askew while he slept…Bugger. He had fallen asleep instead of going back down to the party—the party that he had, in fact, forgotten about completely. He felt himself blushing as he muttered a response and fixed his spectacles.
"Oh, yes, fine. I was just tired."
Ginny looked suspicious. "Mum said you'd gone to the loo, but you were gone a really long time. The party's over."
Percy didn't know what to say to this. "Uh…sorry?"
Ginny shrugged. "I'll go tell Mum you haven't been kidnapped or anything. She's been really worried."
Guilt joined his embarrassment. "I'll go talk to her. Thanks."
"Okay." Ginny turned to leave and Percy felt a question ballooning inside of him. Before he could stop himself he blurted out "Ginny!"
She turned back to him, looking surprised. His voice had come out more desperate than he'd intended, and he felt his ears turning bright red.
"Do you—ah, do you think I'm a…." He couldn't think of a way to finish his question. Do you think I'm a traitorous prat? Do you think I'm a cold, personality-less person? Do you think I'm a proper Weasley? He groaned in frustration and covered his face with his hands. His ears were still burning intensely.
"Do I think you're a what?"
"I don't know…Never mind."
"No, what were you gonna say?"
"Forget it." He removed his hands from his face and chanced a glance at her sister. She was staring at him curiously, and an obstinate expression had taken over her eyes.
"Percy." Her tone was a warning that if he didn't speak there would be terrible consequences. She sounded unnervingly like Mum. Percy threaded his hands through his hair and clenched his fists in exasperation.
"Do you think I'm a traitor? A coward? And what about my room? What the hell is wrong with my room?" He was aware that he wasn't making complete sense to her, so he stopped before he got to the questions about why his room—why he—was so dull compared to everything and everyone else in the Burrow. His tongue was sticking to the roof of his mouth, and stared at Ginny while feverish hope and fear twined together in his chest.
She had looked shocked then confused at his questions, but as Percy stared at her, her expression softened. "I don't think you're a traitor or a coward. Actually it was really brave of you to come back when you did." Her lips pulled into a small smile. "But I don't know anything about your room." And then she was walking toward him and when she threw her arms around him he sat dumbly for a bit then hesitantly raised his arms to hug her back. When she pulled away she smiled at him. "Welcome home, by the way."
Then she was gone and Percy was left staring at the place she had been standing. "Welcome home," he repeated, and looked around his drab room. He wondered if it had ever really been home to him. Maybe not, he thought, but it's not too late to change that.